In short we swirl wine because swirling helps release aromatics in young and older wines. However, it’s important that you don’t swirl too much!
The Purpose of the Swirl #
The purpose of swirling is to release aromas. If a wine is “closed” it means that the wine’s aromatics are dulled. Exposure to oxygen releases these aromatic compounds and “opens up” the wine.
Isn’t that what decanting is for? #
Wines that are not very old (5-10 yrs) may not need to be decanted in a decanter, as they may not need a lot of exposure to oxygen. If you have a wine that’s a little closed, pour your glass and swirl it for a good 30 seconds. Let it settle and smell. If it’s more open but still a little closed, swirl again and smell. If the wine is still closed, it may need to be decanted.
Another reason for allowing oxygen to access your wine is to soften some harsh tannins.
So can I swirl wine too much? #
Some people swirl continuously and unknowingly swirl their wine too much. If you continuously swirl your wine, you may be accidentally over-exposing it to oxygen, and as a result, the wine’s aromas will disappear more quickly and “age” faster in your glass.
A fun thing to try as you sip on a glass – notice how it changes from the first sip to the last – especially if you are patient enough to sip it over a 20-30 minute period.